Monday, December 24, 2007

Taming Power, Askild Haugland, Early Morning Records: 12 pieces

Taming Power first came to my attention in 2003 when Askild sent me a letter with some vinyl. Since then the relationship has blossomed: and can be followed in the old reviews. Through Early Morning Records Askild has released a wealth of music by himself as Taming Power. Starting in 1997 there is a series of 40 cassettes, and then 17 vinyl releases (mainly 10" but also 7" and 12" - some of which are re-issues of the tapes) of his amazing sounds: ambient music based around tape decks used as delay, feedback and looping of sounds from guitar, other instruments and radio sounds (not usually simultaneously - most tracks focus on specific sounds/sources). Askild is also a visual artist and the covers include photos or painting by him (or occasionally archival images). So when I got an email saying the latest release was on the way I was excited.

Twelve Pieces (EMR 10"-017) is like many other releases in that it has tracks from an extended period of time, December 2000 to May 2007. It also reflects two sides of Taming Power - side one is solo guitar, casiotone or zither, while the second combines percussion, voice, harmonica with tape recorder developing from the style seen in the previous release Six Pieces. There are seven pieces on side one - opening with three guitar solos - precise ringing tones, some effects due to the tape work but typical TP solos. There are then 2 on casiotone where the layering is more obvious and the sound warmer; a short zither percussive work before another guitar piece, but here the tones are longer, arching and shimmering in a dense new direction.

Side 2 starts with rising tones and ringing in a hypnotic piece. The combination of metal sound instruments, voice and harmonica continue the dense drone ambience in fabulous layerings, a torrent of tones weaving a huge bed. The third piece flutters like a bird, with strange high song within the eastern-droning, voice absorbed within the metallic world. Then a more meditative drone, based around deeper harmonics, with almost harp-like sounds emerging within the stream. These works have complexities which take some extracting while also flowing through you wonderfully. The album ends with a final guitar work that provides a circle of sound by returning to the mood of the opening sequence. Another great release.

What is it that excites me about Taming Power? There is the medium - Askild's adherence to cassettes and now vinyl, in the face of cd-r and MP3; the consistency in covers, both format and images, provide a strong unity, an oeuvre. However, it's the music, of course. It is intense, focused ambient, edging towards noise-ambient when working with things like tape-feedback. But it always satisfying, and until recently the limits he placed on his instrumentation fostered a dense and fascinating exploration of those sounds. And now he has added other components that add to the depth of his music.
The current release is his largest to date - 525 copies. The company that presses his records cannot handle small orders, and the economics are not much different. However, the increase means that 'there will be no new releases in 2008. Perhaps I will release another record in 2009, but this is not something I will decide now'. It would be great if people ordered this album (and from the back catalogue) so that Taming Power will continue to be released: the music is well worth it. All the releases are highly recommended.
This link is one of the few articles on Taming Power (
Ingvar Loco Nordin)

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